Ken Livingstone said on Saturday that there’s been a 16 percent year-on-year rise in the number of cyclists in the nation’s capital, the first time a figure has been provided for the noticeable pedal-powered upswing. The mayor said the increase is due to congestion charging.
In reality, the upsurge is likely due to the £5 charge and the unseasonably glorious weather.
But, being that rare animal, a politician with balls and power, Livingstone isn’t planning to rest on his laurels. Congestion charging isn’t enough, he wants to becalm London’s streets, making it easier to get about by bike, by foot, and by bus. He is in favour of 20mph urban speed limits.
Cars going slower equals less ‘accidents’. Less perceived danger leads to more cyclists. More cyclists leads to critical mass, the state whereby cars have to slow down for cyclists because there’s so many of ’em.
Livingtone had the balls to push through congestion charging when many critics said it could never be done. And his transport authority has the power to control the traffic in a way that makes other local councils green with envy.
Livingstone, and those London Assembly members who support him and his Transport for London body, could be the equivalent of the 1970s Dutch politicians who forced through unpopular-at-the-time car-taming policies and who made cities such as Groningen the havens of livability they are today. High cycle usage in the Netherlands is no fluke.
Speaking at ‘Cycling: a Capital Solution’, a conference organised by the
London Cycling Campaign, CTC, Transport for London and the Federation of Cycle Campaign Groups, Livingstone said:
"What I intend to do as part of my election manifesto is to say that in residential parts of London, and it’s about 90 percent of the streets, you should have a 20 mph limit…A lower speed limit will reduce child casualties that are fatal or serious by 70 percent."
The London Cycling Campaign applauded the mayor’s view. Tom Bogdanowicz, LLC’s campaigns manager said:
"A 20 mph speed limit will make London’s streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists."
Livingstone also released the first stats on the possible impact the congestion charge has had on cycling levels in the central London area:
"Since the start of the congestion charge scheme, cycling levels in the congestion charge zone have increased by 16 per cent compared with February 2002," said the mayor.
Livingstone expressed his support for measures to increase cycling in the capital and emphasised that "There should never be a decision taken about cycling inside TfL that the London Cycling Campaign and other cycle groups haven’t had input to."
He also plans to give cash grants to all London schools to put in cycle parking and wants to revisit the design of the London Cycling Network to make the design standard suitable for an unsupervised child of twelve years old (it is currently being designed to a standard that an unaccompanied sixteen-year-old can use).
Livingstone’s opponent in next year’s election for London mayor is Tory Steve Norris, currently chair of the National Cycle Strategy Board. Norris famously dissed the notion of congestion charging, including on the eve of its introduction. Yet most Londoners now agree that it’s easier to get around London thanks to Livingtone’s £5 charge. Norris has since back-pedalled somewhat on his original opposition to the scheme.
So, both mayoral candidates now look to be pro-cycling. Yet, ironically, it’s the bus-loving Livingstone that looks likely to do more for London’s cyclists than the helmet-hating Norris.
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